Thursday, February 26, 2015

Childhood

We've had a series of very chill weekends of late - weekends that have found us lazing on the couch after Saturday's Big Yam AM activity glut has abated, watching TV.  Some grocery shopping, some minor visiting, trips to the hill for sledding, being cozy and insular.


We watched the film Boyhood recently, which is tied with Grand Budapest Hotel for my pick as the most deserving best picture nominee.  My film friend at work, D, claims you can never take into account the project or context for a film in your assessment - he's of the opinion that each film has to be based on what you see in front of you.  I think with Boyhood, it's too difficult to disentangle the scope of the project from what you're seeing - the collapse of time, the rumination on memory, on what makes a life, the creation of something that suggests epic in the mundane banality of childhood giving way to nascent adulthood - they're all invoked and evoked in this film.  I'm not generally a huge Richard Linklater fan, but this is an extraordinary film.  To me, it veered ever-so-slightly into melodrama (more than I would have liked), but the performances are outstanding, and the ability for this shambling series of vignettes to conjure what it means to be a kid, growing up, is incredibly, powerfully, affecting.

The film is called Boyhood, but it is just as much about the growing of all the central characters - the boy, his sister, the mom, the dad.  They all grow and change and morph on screen.  The 12 years encapsulated by the film passing by in a series of discrete non-events - the way lives are lived and remembered.  Patricia Arquette's breakdown when she realizes her son is leaving home really hit home (keep in mind, the Big Yam is my child who is closest to university-age and he's four).  I just really empathized with her state of mind.  I am going to be a WRECK when they leave home.  A wreck!  You spend 20 years of your life growing this kid and then they're supposed to go off and be independent?!  AND FORGET YOU?!?  Nuh-uh.  My heart hurts just to think of it.  Like, how can I hold onto Lindsay's awe at what happens when you crack an egg, forever?


I hope this never leaves me.  Classic Quincess with his little cocked head, observing and thinking, thinking, thinking always.

Lindsay's vocabulary has skyrocketed in recent days.  He says "pancake" and "binky" and holds up his hands when he doesn't know where something is.  He likes to enter a room and say, "Hello!" and is always good for a reaction in the vein of what you saw above.  He can do a version of the "Happy Birthday" song that is pretty recognizable.  He's a treasure.  The Quincess' latest tip has been to get a lot of epic nosebleeds in the night (Must. Remember. To. Turn. On. Humidifier).  They both understand so much!  I will never get over the sight of Quincess, the little homunculus, being a tiny walker, moving from room to room with something in his hand.

He suddenly got a fever on Sunday night and was a lethargic little homunculus hot water bottle.  Sitting dazed on the Dotytron for hours.  I'd been talking to Dr. Rei who is in a measles, anti-vax spiral and I got all freaked out Monday morning and made our caregiver bring the babies back from the drop-in centre.  She said he looked "lonely in the eyes" all day, but he seemed to recover by Tuesday.  No more fever, 78% less eye-lonely.  All good signs.

We met up with some Markham crew and drove up in a bonafide snowstorm to experience our first ever escape room.  Uhhh, those things are hella fun.  Why haven't I spent my whole life doing this?  There was a lot of back and forth and we ended up in the "easiest" room.  Despite being told, repeatedly, not to over-think things, we totally overthought things and got owned.  It was a crushing defeat:


The upside was that I got to take the gang to Phoenix and spent about $40 on 4 dishes of food for me and the Dotytron and expose everyone to my favorite restaurant.

We also celebrated Ehmdo's birthday and I made this ombré cake that was quite delicious, though a touch labour intensive.


It's a dark chocolate cake with a mint buttercream frosting and a mint ganache.  I was worried it would be too minty but it was delicious.  Kind of peppy and fresh and worth the hassle in the end.  I've attached the recipe at the end of this post.  The Baked guys tend to favour a buttercream that's akin to the roux-based buttercream that I use on my classic Hershey's chocolate cake.  I actually think I prefer that cake recipe to this one.  The buttercream quality was indistinguishable from the one the Baked guys use.  I would make this again.


We watched Episode 4 with the Big Yam, with frequent pauses so he could understand and process what he was seeing.  He still calls Obi Wan "the old man" and Han Solo "the pilot" and is weirdly fixated on the death stuff, but he's working that out at the moment and there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it.  I feel like his questions about death are his own personal journey he's undertaking at the moment.


We went mid-week to see the Dotyron play in this school board wide band that mixes teachers and students.  He was playing the bass clarinet.  Guys, having instruments around is FUN.  I can't wait to get a piano!

I ate my weight's worth in the crispy browned cheese on top of my skillet lasagne

I tried my hand at making Jamaican stew oxtail.  It was lacking.  The oxtail was tender, but it wasn't as full-bodied as I would like.  Most of the recipes I encountered had you adding in some kind of all purpose "brown sauce" or "gravy" agent and that's just not my bag.  We served it with mashed squash and brown rice.


A lot of my time has been taken up with a fundraiser I'm organizing - a family dance for a local non-profit that's also kind of a city agency.  It's complicated (the City pays for 1-2 staff positions and the rest are matched by fundraising and government grants).  I'm on the revenue generation committee and I floated the idea for the dance so I'm spearheading the coordination.  Anna and Elsa from Frozen will be in attendance.  The Dotytron will be DJing.  There will be face painting and treats.  It should be a good time!  I hope it's successful.  I sent the poster I put together to a local mom who maintains a mailing list and she kind of shamed me, "Want to put together the same thing for [Big Yam's School]?  He still goes there, you know."  

I was like, B***H, please!  How dare you?  I sat on parent council for about 3 meetings before bailing.  I joined with a very specific purpose, to fundraise to improve the music programming.  Picture the most mind-numbingly circular, redundant, namby-pamby work meeting you've ever had to sit through, and then multiply it by a factor of 50.  That was it.  No decisions, no movement, a lot of talk and opinions.  A lot of older (I'm so ageist, I know), one-and-done, stay at home moms who were freaking tits about weird stuff.  Their financials were a mess.  I couldn't read the sheets at all.  It was a nightmare.  When they decided they didn't want to put money towards what I was interested in, I bailed.  But seriously?  Why do I have to defend how I choose to be philanthropic and give to the community to YOU, SAHM?  I didn't see YOU at any of the meetings?  It was infuriating.  PS, my kid was one of the top fundraisers for his grade at the Walkathon, so SHADDUP!    

It's beyond aggravating.  


Stuff like that is the reason why I don't want to go to any of your "parent socials."  In fact, I brought up that very thing at one of the parent council meetings I attended.  I was like, "um, if I'm going to the trouble of arranging babysitting, I kind of want to hang out with my own friends."  I got some nods of understanding and some people were like, "well, I consider the other parents my friends."  WHICH IS SO REVEALING, NO?!?  If all your friends are parents?  Worst!  I was asking at my book club last month, "Are you supposed to be friends with your kid's friends' parents?" and most of the women there, who are generally about 5-8 years up on me, and have kids who are older than mine, were like, "NO."  Phew!  That just seems exhausting.

Like, if it happens organically, then fine.  But also, people are jack a**es.  Like, mean and small and socially awkward.  It's the worst.  If you go to the playground for drop-off and pick-up, there are full-on cliques happening!  All the people who are kind of "like me" (the vaguely hipster, but weathered, parent) cluster together and don't make an effort to reach out beyond people "like them."  No one talks to the South Asian parents, or the parents who clearly aren't "in the know" and don't work from home, or don't have that weird fantasy work set-up that allows them to do pick up and drop off EVERY DAY and be totally integrated into their kids' lives.  My neighbour (who has become a friend), was saying that she went with her daughter to a schoolmate's birthday party and it was so cliquey and no one was talking to her, because the other parents already knew each other.

People suck.  Like seriously?  Just try to be a nice, normal human being and reach out.  If the person happens to be a recluse introvert who doesn't know how to connect, fine, at least you can say you gave it ye olde college trye.  Excluding people because you're too scared and fragile, as someone in your 30s, to be decent and expose yourself and all you want to stick with what you know, is not a good MO.  And I say this as someone, who is a champion grumbler, who probably needs a "No new friends" t-shirt the most.




Rant over (for now).  I've also been feeling particularly rant-y because of the whole vaccine thing making the rounds.  The Dotytron's cousin, who is a chiropractor (I know, I know), posted this stupid article critiquing vaccines (from a nephrologist, of course).  When I pointed out that none of the sources referenced by the author were peer reviewed, she linked to all the sources and pointed out they were reputable journals (Journal of Pediatrics, etc.)  What she didn't know (because reading comprehension, what?) was that all the peer-reviewed citations were for quotes, that Dr. Kook was REFUTING.

My manager sent me this photo recently and it basically applies to our world, all the time, but especially anti-vax moms in the western world who have no idea how to read, use a computer, do research, be critical.  Like, they're functionally illiterate and IS NO ONE WORRIED ABOUT THAT?!

This photo is my life right now.

I've also been mildly obsessing about the kerfuffle with Kanye at the Grammys.  I am a well-documented Kanye apologist.  I can't help it.  I think hating on 'Ye is hating on someone who is putting themselves out there, all the time, and that people who slag on him just can't read the nuances.  He's sublime.  He is self-aware and oblivious at the same time.  He tries so hard!  He's the person who said on network television that "George Bush doesn't care about black people."  When has Jigga or Beyoncé, with their carefully constructed personas, ever put themselves on the line and opened themselves up to potential ridicule?  Never, because they're robots.  I don't GET the Beygency.  Anyway, never forget:


The fact that anyone would bother caring about how Kanye "disrespected" Beck, or Taylor Swift is so funny to me.  It's the Grammys.  Like, you actually care?  You actually have an opinion on that other than "let's see what people are wearing and hear the performances, okay it's a bunch of people that only basic people care about, k thx bye"?  Like, we're going to talk about how "rude" it is when Kanye interrupted Swifty?  So bizarre.  I'm sorry, I didn't read the etiquette guide for appropriate behaviour at MTV VMAs.  

"No, Kanye" forever.  This is the first time they've seemed not like robots.

“Well first of all, Beck is one of the nicest guys and one of the most respected musicians in the game. So, there’s nothing that I will want to do as a fellow musician to disrespect him in any way,” Kanye said on the air. “And the weird thing is like, and I don’t feel like I have the right to take away from people’s moments, but the reality of it is — and case in point by who came up to me right afterwards — is it’s almost like a chiropractor. You know, you just get a little crook out like, ‘Wow, this crook has been there!’ It’s just a little jolt of truth, right? And then you know, everyone feels better after the fact, or everyone is way more famous after the fact, or everyone sells way more albums after the fact, and then Kanye just goes on being an a**hole to everyone.”

Realness.

Lagerfeld OUT.

Fin.



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Baked Wintermint Cake
not adapted at all from Baked Celebrations
serves 18-20 people



Classic Chocolate Cake:
3⁄4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1⁄4 cups hot water
2⁄3 cup sour cream
2 2⁄3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1⁄2 cup unflavored shortening
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla

Peppermint Buttercream:
1 1⁄2 cups sugar
1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1 ⁄2 cups milk
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
1 1⁄2 cups unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Mint Chocolate Ganache:
6 oz dark chocolate (60–72%), chopped coarsely
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1⁄2 teaspoon peppermint extract

For the Classic Chocolate Cake, preheat oven to 325° degrees.

- Butter and flour 3 cake pans, line with parchment, and butter the parchment
Mix cocoa powder, hot water, and sour cream together and set aside to cool.
- Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
- Beat butter and shortening together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add sugars beat until light and fluffy, about 5 more minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Then, slowly add the dry mixture and cocoa mixture to the batter, alternating the 2 kinds and ending with dry.
Divide batter between 3 pans and spread evenly. Bake for 35–40 minutes (rotate the pans halfway through) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Then cool for 20 minutes then invert onto a rack to cool completely.

For the Peppermint Buttercream
-  In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk sugar and flour together. Then add milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil and has thickened. This will take about 10–15 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high until cool, which will take about 7–9 minutes of mixing. Tip: Speed up the process by pressing bags of frozen berries or frozen corn against the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.
- Reduce speed to low and add butter. Mix until incorporated.
- Increase to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, about 1–2 minutes.
- Add vanilla and peppermint extract and continue mixing until combined. If frosting is too soft, put bowl in refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is proper consistency. If frosting is too firm, set bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

For the Mint Chocolate Ganache
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream just to a boil.  Turn off the heat, add the chocolate.  Let it sit for a few minutes and then whisk together until the ganache is smooth.
eat and pour over bowl of chocolate. Then, let ganache come to room temperature.

To assemble the Wintermint Cake
- place 1 cake layer on a serving platter. Use an offset spatula to spread about 1⁄4 cup of ganache on top only. Let set for 1 minute in refrigerator.  Spread approximately 11⁄4 cups of buttercream on top of ganache.

Repeat with following 2 layers.

Crumb coat cake and refrigerate briefly, for around 15 minutes.

Frost sides and top of cake with remaining buttercream.


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